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Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Justices, balls, and strikes

It seems fair to say that, among legal scholars, Chief Justice Roberts's reference to the work of baseball umpires, and his suggestion that the work of the Court's justices should resemble, somehow, that of umpires, has not been greeted with wild approval.  But, according to this news story, it appears that the Chief Justice was spot-on and prescient.  A bit:

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in the case of Wright v. Dreckman, which calls into question professional baseball player David Wright's 2005 check swing against the San Diego Padres and whether or not the resulting strike call should be upheld.

. . .  Thus far, legal and baseball experts remain uncertain as to how the court will rule in Wright v. Dreckman.

"I think this decision could go either way," Baseball Tonight legal analyst John Kruk said. "Several of the justices, such as [Antonin] Scalia, are originalists who believe in the strict interpretation the baseball rulebook as it was first written. That document clearly states that a decision on the check swing ultimately falls on the umpire. However, there are those pragmatists on the court, such as Justice Breyer, who believe in the living, flexible rulebook."

Added Kruk: "And then there is Justice [Samuel] Alito, who is an idiot, and moreover has never watched a baseball game in his life."

(HT:  The Onion.)

Posted by Rick Garnett on July 17, 2008 at 02:20 PM in Constitutional thoughts | Permalink


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iirc, Alito's service as a Little League coach was discussed at the time of his nomination. did he teach his kids the hidden ball trick? how to frame a pitch on the corner to get a strike call? if he did, was that ethical?

Posted by: baseball guy | Jul 18, 2008 11:20:01 AM

Alito came in late to Thomas's C-Span book party because he had been watching a baseball game.

Posted by: Chris | Jul 18, 2008 9:40:59 AM

What'd be great is if "check-swing" could be incorporated in some legal text, such that a court could be called upon to interpret the term one day. Not too much unlike the case about the PGA guy who couldn't walk, if I recall correctly.

Posted by: andy | Jul 17, 2008 4:10:08 PM

Wright v. Dreckman has had a very interesting procedural history in the lower courts:

The road to the Supreme Court for Wright v. Dreckman has been lengthy, convoluted, and filled with more than its share of tumult. After the 2005 Shea ruling, the case was appealed to the U.S. District Court of the state of New York, where the decision was reversed in favor of Wright. However, when it was revealed that the presiding judge was a lifelong Mets fan, the decision was thrown out and the case was again argued in front of the New York State Court of Appeals. That court, citing the 1994 case Bonds v. Davidson, sided with Dreckman.

(Emphasis added)

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Jul 17, 2008 2:55:21 PM

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